by Sarah Nelson
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:6-8
Like many of you, I have served as a Sunday School teacher, VBS coordinator, director of church Christmas plays, as well as in several other “church lady” roles. Also like some of you, I am a Mom. In all of those capacities, I have encouraged, urged, and yes, I’m sad to say, even shamed some children (including my own), into doing “their” part in church and Sunday School.
The error of my ways hit me full and center when God blessed me to be the mother of some little ones with special needs and challenges. Memorizing long lines, being in front of a congregation of grown-up faces, and being dressed in itchy costumes didn’t just cause jitters, it caused full fledged anxiety. Required singing by the Sunday School children on a monthly basis at one church slowly grew a fear and a dread in some of my children of going to church.
A few years ago a thought occurred to me – Do we ask adults or rather, tell adults, what they will do to serve at church? Do we require someone gifted in administration, but not with musical ability, to sing a solo? Do we demand that someone who is more at home serving in the church kitchen, design and create new church banners? Of course not. If we did, we would soon see hurt feelings, frustration at not being able to use the true gifts God intended us to use for His glory, and eventually a possible exit from the church.
A simple solution we as a family and church began using was to have our children serve where they are gifted, and not where we wanted or thought they “should” be. One child designed and printed our Christmas program bulletin, two served as ushers, those with musical and acting abilities shared them generously, and another child helped with props and scenery for a program. We gradually saw a love for working within the church body return. More importantly, they began to serve God and others with JOY, because they were exercising their God given gifts.
Have you like me, put the pressure on others to perform rather than serve within their giftedness at church? If so, we have a gracious and forgiving Father ready to forgive us from those mistakes and to make us sensitive to the needs of others. Have we unintentionally put a sour taste in the mouths of our children and teens as to what church is, rather than allowing the sweetness of unity and working together to be a welcome memory as they grow older and mature in their walk with Christ? Again, our Father is more than able to forgive us for the past and plant a new desire within us to build up rather than to (even while not knowing it) discourage others.
As a body of believers, we need to encourage one another to discover the gifts God has graciously given to us. We need to use those gifts corporately for the body to function as a whole, in a healthy and Christ honoring way. Today let’s use our God-given abilities and talents along with those given to our brothers and sisters with JOY – for His glory and honor!